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Queen’s University Belfast receives £500k to improve gender equality within STEM

  • Queen’s University Belfast has received over £500,000 funding for research that aims to improve gender equality within STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics).

    Despite numerous gender equality initiatives, fewer than 10 per cent of the UK's engineers are women - the lowest percentage in Europe - and the proportion of women studying engineering and physics has remained virtually static since 2012. 

    Queen’s University Belfast academics, who are at the cutting edge of research on gender initiatives, aim to address this challenge by carrying out interdisciplinary research to understand and address the attitudes that academics who work in engineering and physical sciences have towards gender equality initiatives.

    Gender equality initiatives such as Athena SWAN – a charter that recognises and celebrates good practice in advancing gender equality - exist across UK universities. Queen’s University has established itself as a leading university for promoting good employment practices for its female staff. It has been involved with the Athena SWAN initiative from its inception and currently holds an Athena SWAN gold award in Psychology.

    Director of Queen’s Gender Initiative Yvonne Galligan commented: “Queen’s Gender Initiative is thrilled that our gold-winning School of Psychology in the Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences has obtained this EPSRC award. It is recognition that the School is at the forefront of research on gender bias in engineering science. We look forward to supporting this ground-breaking research and implementing its findings. It is vital that we shift the dial on the poor representation of women in engineering. This foundational research will help us, and Higher Education, to do so.”

    The Queen’s research project aims to continue to improve gender initiatives. It will gain an insight into the potential barriers to gender equality initiatives and build training tools aimed at improving their reception. Queen’s is working in collaboration with the University of Glasgow and University of Warwick on the project.

    The project titled ‘Inclusion Really Does Matter: Improving Reactions to Gender Equality Initiatives Amongst Academics in Engineering and Physical Sciences’ is one of eleven projects that have been launched by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council at universities across the UK to improve equality, diversity and inclusion within engineering and the physical sciences. 

    Programme Director Dr Ioana Latu from the School of Psychology at Queen’s University Belfast said: “Although gender equality initiatives exist in Engineering and Physical Sciences Schools across the UK, there may be ways that they could be more effective. Our vision is that in order to improve diversity and inclusion within engineering and physical sciences rapidly, we need to understand academics’ attitudes towards gender equality initiatives. 

    “We hope that by addressing how gender equality initiatives are received on the ground, it will have long term effects by accelerating diversity and culture change within engineering and physical sciences, ultimately creating a more inclusive environment for women who study and work in STEM fields.”

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